BELLINGHAM - The chance to see a movie for $2 at the new Barkley theater received a thumbs-up from hundreds of Whatcom County residents on Monday, Dec. 10.
About 150 people were lined up at the front ticket counter when it opened at 10:30 a.m. Monday for the three-day preview event. The theater officially opens with a 12:20 a.m. showing Friday, Dec. 14 (and throughout the day) to coincide with the release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."
Proceeds from preview event go to local charities, with the Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County benefiting from the family-friendly theme on Monday. The preview days at Barkley continue with 16 movies Dec. 11-12, with proceeds benefiting Extend-a-Hand on Tuesday and Bellingham Food Bank on Wednesday.
Many moviegoers were eager to check out the inside of the 68,000-square-foot, 16-screen theater, particularly the IMAX and Regal Cinema's special 3D screen.
"So far it looks great," said Bill Cherry, who was in line purchasing "Finding Nemo 3D" and "Mirror, Mirror" tickets with his 8-year-old daughter, Jenny. "Getting a chance to see a movie in 3D for $2 is hard to pass up."
When he saw the line forming, Gavin Green joined people to buy tickets for later in the week. Green works for Hart Novelty and was at the theater putting the finishing installation touches on the photo booth inside the theater.
"It's a beautiful theater," said Green, who bought tickets to see "The Dark Knight Rises" on the IMAX screen. "A lot of people are talking about it. I know people who are buying multiple tickets and plan to be here a lot this week."
While the initial waiting line stretched across the front of the theater, several employees were ready to handle the transactions and by 11:30 a.m. people could walk right up to the ticket windows to make a purchase. It was a steady stream of moviegoers after 11:30 a.m., with several wandering into the lobby to check it out.
The smooth start was something Regal spokeswoman Rachel Lueras was happy to see, along with the early turnout.
"I'm glad to see it this busy for our charity days," she said. "It's been a happy, happy group of people today."
Monday was also the opening of The Woods Coffee's Barkley café, which had a line of more than 300 people as well as 30 cars lined up at the drive-through when it opened at 5:30 a.m., said owner Wes Herman. The coffee shop was giving away $25 Woods gift cards before 6 a.m. and continued with other gifts throughout the day.
"We've had big events at our other openings, but we've never had hundreds of people lined up before 6 a.m.," Herman said. "It really showed us the traffic in this area and the need for a drive-through."
Traffic around the theater on Monday morning appeared to be moving smoothly, particularly on the stretch of Barkley Boulevard on the north side of the theater. An extra vehicle lane and a stoplight were recently installed in that area.
The opening of the Barkley theater also meant the closing of Regal Cinema's Sehome theater on Sunday, Dec. 9. Lueras said the company's Sunset theater is scheduled to close Thursday, Dec. 13. Regal also operates the Bellis Fair movie theater, which will remain open.
Regal plans further promotions with the grand opening, with free popcorn and soda for each ticketholder Dec. 14-20.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/business or get updates on Twitter at twitter.com/BhamHeraldBiz.